It's the last day of 2018, My extended family has made the trek to Dallas to share time with us in a new home in a new town. With Christmas presents just received there is a lot of new things, a lot of new toys, and a few new screens.
My little ones and their cousin counterparts are in that post Christmas coma where the TV is always on, there are still about a billion cookies around, and sleep is fought to the death. As with all people under 10 years of age this is a recipe for intense crankiness, hurt feelings, and incessant complaining. Hey, we've all been there. It's tempting to let them just recess to their screens, or put on a movie, for what feels like quiet time.
This morning, after the tear streaked cheeks of my youngest where wiped off due to a backyard basketball technical foul, I told them all to get ready to go for a hike. The intention was equal parts get them out of the house, give my pregnant wife a minute to relax, and some woods will do you good.
We drive over to a local park where my kids play soccer. Tucked in amongst the manicured ball fields is 1.8 miles of trail laid amidst a pond and a variety of Texas tree species. It is the definition of non technical, no rocks, no elevation to speak of but a tiny hill of 50ft, it has ample trail markings, and includes little plaques that tell the species of the trees as you walk the path.
What happens when we get out of the car is both what I anticipated yet still a welcome surprise. They bolt out of the car to the trail head and its small little nature center. By the time I catch up with them a cousin is climbing a tree, my youngest has a walking stick, and my oldest is asking about the sign that has a snake on it.
This is how I came back to running, years ago now at this point. In the pursuit to find what makes me human and to find out what human's are built to do. Take some kids out on the trail and you'll immediately have that answer.
They run. They run because they want to see who is fastest, they run because the others are walking and a quick victory can be attained. They run because they've goaded the monster (me) to chase them. They run because when the screens are away, and the TV is off, and the woods envelope their frame of view that is what they know to do. It's what they know they are supposed to do. It is their nature.
After minutes the oldest cousin has found a water source, my youngest has found berries and asked if we can eat them, my daughter asks what animals are in the woods, the youngest cousin asks if there are bears. They ask the questions and explore the way children would have hundreds of years ago if not thousands. My daughter asks if she can lead the group, and when I say go ahead she beams up at me with the pride that I know independence brings and she pushes the pace and yells "There's a downhill!" (yes the same 50ft from before) and flies down it with abandonment. After a mile the older kids are a bit a head and the younger with their smaller legs are a bit tired and walking. My son the youngest sees a tree laying over the trail and immediately begins a sprint to get their first. He's all over it, and soon everyone is on this tree seeing how high they can climb, asking how it fell, and assuming there is a giant somewhere around. The youngest cousin is a bit worried we're lost and says we can climb a hill to see how to get out. I assure her there is nothing to be concerned of and we finish our loop in just about 30 minutes, taking a few minutes to pick up trash that was at the trail head before getting back in the car.
This year the miles have been kind to me, I have all the gear I could conceivably need, I have the best friends I have ever had in my life, and here on the last day of the year with a group of young humans in the most mix matched gear you could imagine I finish the year with a 20 minute mile, beaming ear to ear. Let's give these little ones the ability to be who they naturally are, and share their smiles. We are humans and that makes us runners. See you on the trail friends.